New Kerala - 12 December 2019
20 years on: China, Japan, ROK seek cooperation amid uncertainties
In 1999, the leaders of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) held a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Plus Three (10+3) Summit, marking the beginning of their trilateral cooperation. In 2019, the eighth China-Japan-ROK Leaders’ Meeting will soon open in Beijing. After two decades of development, a multi-level trilateral cooperation system has been established, with the leaders’ meeting as the core, along with 21 ministerial-level meetings and over 70 dialogue mechanisms as important components.
As Northeast Asian neighbors, China, Japan and the ROK are closely connected in terms of geopolitics and economy, possessing a long history of cultural interaction. This means they always rise and fall together. However, in the past 10 years, the bilateral ties of China and Japan have nosedived because of the 2010 boat collision incident, the dispute over ownership of the Diaoyu Islands, and the change of national strengths. Meanwhile, trade disputes and some longstanding issues between Japan and the ROK left the ties between these two countries in a state of confusion. All these factors have combined to add to the uncertainties of future trilateral cooperation.
Yet, in October 2018, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China, the two countries signed more than 50 memorandums on business cooperation in third countries. Since then, frequent exchanges on culture and security, amid other issues, have been undertaken. On Nov. 27 this year, the 16th round of negotiations on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among China, Japan and the ROK started in Seoul, capital of the ROK. Since the negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) text have been concluded, the negotiations on a trilateral FTA, underway for seven years, are highly likely to make concrete progress, creating new opportunities for development of a trade structure among the three countries or even all over the world.
When relationships among different countries are concerned, inclusiveness and cooperation always outweigh disputes and conflicts. The bonds between China, Japan and the ROK won’t easily break for the benefit of another party. Currently, the international order and structure are changing rapidly, presenting both opportunities and challenges to regional development and global governance. China, Japan and the ROK should take a positive, open and responsible attitude to properly handle multi-lateral relationship, and prevent the rise of unilateralism and protectionism. On the international stage, the three countries should work together to take on more responsibility to tackle the issue of unbalanced regional development, focus on cooperation in ecology, environmental protection, disaster reduction and poverty alleviation, promote regional cooperation with other countries or regions, and share development experiences and achievements with other countries, so as to promote a common, sustainable development of the region and beyond.
The current cooperation of China, Japan and the ROK has entered its 20th year. The world is looking forward to more positive results from the trilateral cooperation as it has now reached a new historical juncture.